The land of Blackwater Olive Grove has been in the Thomas family since the early 1940’s. Grover Thomas sent money home from his Merchant Marine tour to make the down-payment. Charles Thomas farmed it until his death in the 1980’s. Mike Thomas learned how to drive on this land at age 9. “My Uncle Ray would set me behind the steering wheel, pull-out the choke to keep the engine from stalling (I could not reach the gas pedal) then he’d climb out of the cab into the truck bed and as I zig-zagged around the field he would toss hay to my grandfathers milk cows.
This has been farm land for generations, cotton, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, turf and millet have been grown here. It’s a quiet place where my father would drive his car to the hedge row, sit and listen to the quiet thinking about his growing up days in Victoria, Alabama, where once a week he’d drive a mule and wagon 30 miles to Elba, Al. the home of George Wallace. He left for the Merchant Marines in 1943 sending money home to my Grandfather who used that money to make a down payment on this land and started farming, milking dairy cows and making payments. When Grandpa Thomas died in the 1980’s the four sons and two daughters split the land six ways. Dad chose the 14 acres on the West side just across the street from the University of Florida’s experimental farm, an odd place where everything is grown in little squares and plots…. (What’s he Building in there?) .
So here we are with a wild idea to grow olives on Florida. Come visit us on highway 182 just West of Allentown, North of Milton on the way to Jay, past pecan trees, farm silos and the foundation of Ward’s Store (gone now) where my Grandfather would buy me penny candy then drive his 1946 Chevy Apache pickup truck down the center of the highway astride the yellow lines all the way home–my eyes as wide as an owl’s. You see, that was the way he would drive a mule and wagon.
We need a few more days To get our olives growing but come and show me your pick.